Listen to “Heat Pump” read by Tabatha Wood. Taken from “Dark Winds Over Wellington: Chilling Tales of the Weird & the Strange” (2019).
One of the best parts of being an English teacher, I always felt, was reading aloud to the class. Even the most rowdy of students could be lulled into quiet concentration with a good story. I wasn’t the kind of teacher who simply perched on their desk while reading, no, I had to use the space, gesticulate, do all the different voices and facial expressions. For me, reading aloud is more akin to acting than simply telling a story.
Now I’m a mum, you can be sure I carry on this expressive way of reading with my children. Terry Pratchett’s “We Free Men” is one of their favourites, not just because it’s a fantastic story, but because all the characters, particularly the Nac Mac Feegle, have such wonderfully rich Celtic accents and personalities. My nana was Scottish. I can emulate a passable Edinburgh accent, which, while not entirely accurate, works well enough for a tribe of heavy-drinking, angrily-shouting, constantly-fighting, blue-painted imaginary Pict-sies.
Not as big as medium sized Jock, but bigger than wee Jock, Jock. You can’t even say the character’s name without sounding at least a little bit Scottish.
My real accent is an interesting one. Born and bred in Whitby, there is a definite tinge of North Yorkshire to it, but it’s not a stereotypically Whitby tinge. Unless you count the colloquial “Now then” – Whitby for “hello.” I moved to Teesside at 19 and lived there for 8 years, so there’s probably a bit of ‘Boro in there too. Then on to Leicester for another 12 years, although I never quite mastered the “Ey, up, me duck?” Finally, I have lived in New Zealand for almost two years. The wonderfully Kiwi, “Yeah, nah” is spread liberally through my conversations. My vowels have slipped and my ‘T’s’ often change into ‘D’s’.
But, if you then add a high and low-frequency hearing impairment, and the ability to do a “Teacher Voice”, it becomes… interesting. (Teacher Voice – it’s a bit like a Telephone Voice. You know it even if you don’t realise you do. It usually begins with a very particular way of saying “ahhh” which demands that you stop what you’re doing, put your pen down and listen. It works on pre-schoolers and rude businessmen alike, and is fantastic for getting people to do pretty much exactly as you ask. Also useful is the “outstretched arm in the corridor” trick which will grant you passage through any crowd. Simply extend your arm in front of you at 90 degrees from the floor and use Teacher Voice to say “Excuse me!” loudly and clearly. Works like a charm.
But I digress…)
My writing pal Jamie, recently released an audiobook version of their excellent novel Lepus Dizzy, which they read aloud themselves, and it inspired me to think about doing the same. A couple of days ago I saw someone on Twitter asking for people to join their team to read stories aloud for podcast/streaming. I figured, the universe is clearly trying to nudge me into something here, so why not give it a go?
And what better to use as practice material than my own stories?
So, after all that preamble, I would like to share with you the very first story from my collection. You can listen straight away via Soundcloud (link at the top of this post), and, once approved, it will be available as a podcast on Apple Podcasts.
An accessible version (with subtitles) is also available on my YouTube channel.
I’ll be adding each new story every week, and I’d love to hear your feedback on them too.
If you weren’t already convinced, here’s some feedback I received from another author.